Each person has a name.
We each have a name given by God and given by our father and mother.
We each have a name given by our stature and smile and given by our attire.
… We each have a name given by the sea and given by our death.
(Poem by Zelda, Mishkan T’filah, ed., Elyse D. Frishman [New York: CCAR Press, 2007], p. 579
The revelation of God’s name YHVH (pronounced Adonai) does lead us to think of Zelda’s poem. But what does it mean to have a name given to us by our parents, our yearnings, our fears, or our enemies? Each of these gives us a name based on what we mean to them or what they expect us to do for them. A name based on our attire or a name we choose ourselves is a name based on what we want the world to think of us. Where do we get the name that calls us by who we really are?
In the commentaries of Rashi and Ibn Ezra on Exodus 6:2, we are told that our ancestors did not know God by the name YHVH because that name means that God is faithful to fulfill promises. The promises made to our ancestors in Genesis were not fulfilled in their time, but God speaks and fulfills promises immediately in Exodus. Unfortunately, this just means that YHVH is another description of what the Holy One can do for us.
Rambam’s commentary hints that the name YHVH is God’s true essence: not how we see God, not what God does for us, but Who God really is. I don’t believe that human beings can understand the true essence of God. Perhaps that is why we cannot pronounce the Name. Nor do we fully understand the true essence of people around us. Perhaps that is why people need more than one name.
However, I do think God can understand our true essence and God knows our true name. It would be nice to think that when we die, God will call us by that name. When we hear it we will recognize it immediately, and all of our behaviour, character, and history will, in that moment, finally make sense.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat Rbbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Rabbi Tom Gardner )
Torah Reading Shabbat Va’eira
Exodus 6:2−9:35 – Reading: Ex 6:26-7:19
Plaut p. 384; Hertz p. 235
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Plaut p.401; Hertz p.244
Rosh Chodesh Sh’vat is on Wednesday 17.01.18